Kultur Klatch / Favorite Best Songs of 2010, Part 1 of 4

I thought it was a pretty good year in music. Did you?

Here are my favorite best songs from 2010.

“Song” / Artist / Album

Intro” / The xx / xx
“The introductory instrumental, `Intro,’ sets the mood for the bare sensuality that is the pronounced atmosphere of the album. With electronic stop-and-go beats similar to the field of trip-hop, xx begins on its journey through tunes that possess both what is hot and cold, at times seeming to inhale frost yet radiate steam.”  (Blogcritics Music)

Airplanes” / B.o.B. featuring Hayey Williams and Eminem / B.o.B Presents: The Adventures of Bobby Ray
“If we were charmed by B.o.B.’s breakthrough with Bruno Mars, Nothing On You, this hook-up with the hot Paramore vocalist brings something a little bit more serious to the table. And isn’t it refreshing to hear what Williams can do away from the rest of the band? Her vocal is instantly identifiable, but gives off a subdued, melancholy vibe that helps set the tone of this song. B.o.B.’s rapping is loose and cool, but I think he relies on whoever his guest star is to set the emotional tone of the song. Same goes for the Bruno Mars collaboration. Lyrically, the theme seems to be B.o.B. becoming jaded by the industry (or what he terms ‘politics’) and just wanting to get back to the music. To be honest though, I find the rapping serves as a baseline to make the singing stand out, which is why I walk away from these songs with more regard for the guest artist than for B.o.B. himself. On this one, all eyes are on Hayley.”  (Unreality Shout)

Windstorm” / School of Seven Bells / Disconnect From Desire
“Swooning hard, straight out of the gate, School of Seven Bells open their sophomore album with `Windstorm,’ an affecting and all-around lovely song that sets the tone — and the bar — for the rest of the record. `When the fires burn from sky to ground/ Swing my weight around/ Begin the windstorm.’ The lyrics, muddled as they are, offer a fitting précis for the School’s stylistic intentions. Using synthesizers to create gauzy, swirling canvases of sound, there’s a tangible sense of drive, of a slow-burning combustion throughout Disconnect From Desire, as well as its predecessor. The drum machines at the climax of `Windstorm,’ however, announce a subtle shift for School of Seven Bells, moving away from Kraut motorik into full-blown 90s electronica revivalism.”  (Tiny Mix Tapes)

Ghost Train” / Summer Camp
“As with Summer Camp’s other tracks ‘Ghost Train’ begins with a line from another ’80s movie classic. This time Cameron Crowe’s, Say Anything…. `I’m sorry, it’s just you’re a really nice guy, and we don’t wanna see you get hurt’ before the response, `I wanna get hurt!’. While ‘Ghost Train’ isn’t homage to the film, it does share themes of interactions and potentially putting distance between them. It has that traversing landscapes aura about it. Coupled with overtones of adolescent long distance relationships, struggling to exist via poor connections and cross-country trains amid changing seasons. It’s a sweet and airy chug along with an O Superman-esque `Dear, dear, dear, dear, dear/I, I, I, I, I/You, you, you, you, you’ over an awkward, infectious and darling synth line. The vocals are subtle and light yet bloom on the chorus.”  (Muso’s Guide)

Time to Wake Up Now” / Bill Fay / Still Some Light
“I think this is his first new work in around 20 years since being unearthed and praised by David Tibet and covered by Wilco/Jeff Tweedy. Well-crafted and honest songwriting with wonderfully loose layers of vocalism and mournful lyrics.”  (Connor Bell, The Decibel Tolls)

Awake” / Mutiny Within / Mutiny Within
“To define the rapid evolution of metalcore over the past two years, one only needs to listen to this song. `Awake’ is easily the most memorable metalcore song since Killswitch Engage’s Grammy-nominated `The End of Heartache’. Replete with Chris Clancy’s soaring vocal lines, Bill Fore’s razor-sharp technical drums, and an unbelievable guitar solo from Brandon Jacobs, `Awake’ is the epitome of progressive metalcore, and the defining standard for all songs to come within their scene.  (Chris Colgan, PopMatters)

Say My Name” / Holy Ghost! / Static on the Wire
“The darker `Say My Name’ (not a Destiny’s Child cover) retains that seductive cool, but with a more sinister undercurrent, carrying more post-punk edge along with its Italo-disco flash.”  (Jeff Terich, Treble)

Bright Lit Blue Skies” / Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti / Before Today
“[This] version of `Bright Lit Blue Skies’ improves on the original by intensifying the arrangement with, among other things, vocal harmonies, which just happens to be very in vogue right now. In an ever out-of-time album, it may seem odd that Before Today’s most prescient song is a cover of a tune from 1966, but what this suggests is less clear. Are our times out-of-touch and is Ariel Pink symptomatic of that?  Or is Ariel Pink so hopelessly out-of-synch that he’s actually very in-touch with our out-of-time present, the postmodern eternal now, which seems to only exist in reference to sometime else, sometime before today?”  (Timothy Gabriele, PopMatters)

I Need a Dollar” / Aloe Blacc
“Aloe Blacc has been experimenting with different sounds and styles for a while now, and it appears he has found his stride. Produced by Truth and Soul, and backed by the Expressions and El Michels Affair, `I Need A Dollar’ is captivating from first strike of the piano to the pristine horn sections closing. Aloe himself has never sounded better; his voice more bold and comfortable as he rides the swinging rhythm. Penned with a humanistic eye for detail, `I Need A Dollar’ has pop aspirations but resonates on [a] much more profound level. Far from a contrived modern twist of the retro vibe, Aloe has created an authentic hit. Just ask HBO.”  (Corey Bloom, The Smoking Section)

Castles in the Snow” / Twin Shadow / Forget
“Twins come in pairs (FACTS), and since we recently turned our eyes towards terrific Brooklyn newcomers Twin Sister, it’s only fitting we’ve found them a nominal neighborhood counterpart in George Lewis Jr. aka Twin Shadow. His press materials point toward the krautworks of Can and Kraftwerk as inspirations, possibly because Lewis logged time in Berlin before returning here and launching this project. Maybe you can hear a bit of them in the bass-picked breakdown and chilly synths lining the track’s high end, but once filtered through Twin Shadow’s emotional vocals and intermittent guitars it all comes out more like if Junior Boys moved to the 11211. Grizzly Bear sound sculpter Chris Taylor will release Twin Shadow’s debut EP this year via his quickly growing Terrible label, but you can start with the very promising intro of `Castles In The Snow.'” (Stereogum)

Found Out” / Caribou / Swim
“Elsewhere, divorce and crumbling relationships permeate `Found Out’ (whose female protagonist suffers hopelessness as `she knows she’ll be there on her own’) and empty-nest song `Hannibal’. Lonely feelings abound, as Snaith employs textures and compositional tricks from minimal techno, house, and disco to convey this distant melancholia. The harshly juxtaposed interplay of beats on `Found Out’ make for punch-drunk club music….”  (Larry Fitzmaurice, Pitchfork)

Superfast Jellyfish” / Gorillaz, featuring Gruff Rhys and De La Soul / Plastic Beach
“It took the voices of Bobby Womack and Mos Def to get `Stylo’’s disco going and bassist Murdoc’s AOL `pirate radio’ session snippets — a couple with Sweden’s Little Dragon — to flesh out Gorillaz’ Plastic Beach (3/9 via Parlophone/Virgin). Someone who clearly lives just off the PB shoreline is `Superfast Jellyfish,’ a character (and cereal) brought to life by De La Soul (`All hail King Neptune / and his water breathers!’), Super Furry Animal Gruff Rhys, and a deep nod to The Who Sell Out. Listen at Gorillaz official Youtube page. Before you file Plastic Beach in the kids’ music aisle, remember elder statesmen Lou Reed, Mark E. Smith, and Mick Jones also contribute.”  (Stereogum)

Acá Entera” / Javiera Mena / Mena
“Equally charming is `Aca Entera,’ perhaps the catchiest song in the album and Javiera’s heart-on-her-sleeve moment. This is clearly a song for her girlfriend, a song about finding your whole… `cuando vamos las dos, son tus pasos latia, la bajada nos guia en directo al amor.’ I cry everytime.”  (Carlos Reyes, Club Fonograma)

Lovesick” / Lindstrøm and Christabelle / Real Life Is No Cool
“`Lovesick’ finds Christabelle sing-speaking under her breath, her whisper-y free association ambiguously confident, as if her love is generating giddiness and uncertainty simultaneously. The track’s trick is to play with your perceptions of her mindstate– how does she really feel, and how is she trying to present herself, and where do these feelings intersect? The way the song jams bass and horn riffs from an anthemic pop memory at right angles against a steady, chugging Lindstrøm groove creates an impact like running in slow motion. Another example of co-existing contradictions, a kind of confusion: savoring this love malady for the long haul while it quickly passes in one queasy-yet-diffident whirlwind.”  (David Drake, Pitchfork)


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